The Skeleton Palms


Fiction - Crime
444 Pages
Reviewed on 08/31/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

I've been a freelance writer, off and on, for thirty years, mostly in the field of corporate communications. The Skeleton Palms is my second novel, and is a labour of love and hate. I loved writing it, but many of the characters in it I had to, by necessity, hate. I'm not sure that makes sense, but it's how I my writing process worked. I currently work for the Toronto Public Library and live in Hamilton, Ontario.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

A friend asks Tom Bridger for a favor. Bridger, the investigator protagonist in Cary Watson’s second novel, The Skeleton Palms, tells us that he cannot refuse—because he is both a house guest and sleeping with his friend’s wife. This brutal honesty tinged with idiosyncrasy is central to the first-person POV as Bridger has seen the darkest parts of the human heart, including his own. To observe Bridger as the archetypal tough P.I. is to see a fundamental type of crime fiction character being born. That is someone who is on the side of the law but gets entangled in a high level of conspiracy that involves backstabbing, corruption, murder, and wildfires. In the end, all eyes will turn to him. Everything that he knows must come to light as he finds who to pin the blame on. There will be things that he will want to remember and things that he will never forget.

Bridger is a complex character that is easy to understand. Kudos to Cary Watson for his brilliant style, which interlocks the narrative with Bridger’s childhood and his growing-up years in an arid mountain town. Other characters like Reinhart and Enoch possess the grit necessary to emphasize their character's distinctiveness. They don’t just follow their own set of morals, they illustrate them with every action. Bridger can be sharp-edged and menacing, but this is brought about by his nurture, hanging out with the wrong crowd, and being a part of the system. Watson’s storyline and characterization are vital in keeping The Skeleton Palms from becoming just another one of those forgettable crime novels. Like most noir tales, you can expect it to end in a flurry of revelations. But it is a brilliant upgrade to the genre, one that will keep you invested as you read along.

Rabia Tanveer

The Skeleton Palms by Cary Watson is a crime fiction novel that takes readers into the mind of the killer and victim Tom Bridger. The story follows Tom's life as he experiences the worst that fate has to offer. His life was never the best, but it never improved either. With a manic father who took him away, Tom was introduced to violence at an early age, which left a huge impact on his mind. From then on, Tom and violence went hand in hand. His youth brought violence into his life, and then in adulthood, Tom embraced that violence to live it out to his heart’s content. Before he knew it, violence became a part of his life, and he was thriving on it.

The Skeleton Palms was an intense story that had me on the edge of my seat. The story got a little graphic at times with violence and guns, so fair warning to readers who are uncomfortable with graphic content. That being said, the graphic scenes felt right at home in this narrative. The pace of the action was brilliant, and Cary Watson left no stone unturned when it came to giving Tom opportunities to grow and develop. The author shared different narratives, one for his adult life and one for when Tom was growing up. That built up the story and made me want to know more about Tom and understand him. The dialogues were heartless at times, but that was what I expected from Tom and the people who surrounded him. The end was so fitting!

Romuald Dzemo

The Skeleton Palms by Cary Watson is a compelling story that is well-written for fans of crime fiction and psychological thrillers. It follows Tom Bridger, ex-cop, private investigator, and killer, and explores both his early life and his life as an adult. While the novel explores some of the brutal killings of the man, it also answers the question: Why and how did he become a killer? From killing a man in an abandoned building at the age of thirteen to massacring a biker gang to committing other crimes, the author explores the psyche of the protagonist. The book can be read as a coming-of-age story that follows events leading up to the making of a killer or as the story of a psychologically sick individual. What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted?

The Skeleton Palms is a bold story that is creatively written. There is a lot of suspense and readers will have to read on to understand some of the clues that are introduced early in the story. The coming-of-age part of the story presents a troubled young man that readers will have compassion for. Cary Watson’s prose is beautiful and the writing leaps off the pages with elegance. The descriptive character of the narrative caught my attention and I particularly enjoyed the fluidity in expression and the author’s ability to create strong imagery and settings that come alive in the reader’s imagination. The Skeleton Palms is a novel with mature themes and a story that will appeal to fans of noir.

Pikasho Deka

The Skeleton Palms is a neo-noir urban crime thriller written by Cary Watson. An amalgamation of two simultaneous storylines, the book follows ex-cop turned private security consultant Tom Bridger as he navigates his way through an insidious conspiracy involving billionaires while providing a glimpse of his childhood. After finding himself falling for Autumn, the wife of a powerful man, Tom is desperate to keep her safe as her husband's associates seek a laptop that contains proof of their nefarious activities. However, Autumn's thirst for vengeance will take Tom towards a path from where there is no turning back. Meanwhile, a young Tom fights his way out of an abusive home and a crime-infested town to carve out a life for himself. But will his tryst with Autumn make him fall back into his old ways?

Author Cary Watson crafts a page-turner of a novel that takes hold of you from the start and doesn't let go until the end. Unabashedly violent and gritty, The Skeleton Palms pulls no punches and showcases some of the worst aspects of humanity without flinching. The narrative is non-linear, with one strand narrating the present events in Tom's life while the other provides a glimpse into the hell-hole of a town he grew up in. Almost all the characters were morally grey, with Tom and Autumn the best of the bunch. There are some disconcerting scenes, but they are described in a way that adds a lot of authenticity to the narrative. I found The Skeleton Palms thoroughly riveting, and it comes highly recommended.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

The Skeleton Palms by Cary Watson is a crime thriller. Tom Bridger used to be a police officer. Now he’s a private investigator and a killer. This is the story of Bridger’s life, from a bad childhood right up to when he becomes the target of a conspiracy. Along the way, he faces trials no young teenager or man should ever have to face. Tom has faced them all, from the sex trafficking gangs in downtown Las Vegas to a drowning in Malibu, from a massacre in the middle of nowhere to an agonizing death in the desert. Now he’s about to face his biggest threat yet, and it will take all his wits to save himself from certain death.

The Skeleton Palms by Cary Watson is a gritty tale that puts you a little in mind of The Making of a Murderer. It is written in two separate parts, each chapter alternating between the past and the present, allowing us to see, little by little, what makes Tom Bridger tick. It is a little violent in places, but then murder is rarely anything but. You might be confused when you first start reading, but trust me – keep reading because it all makes sense not long into the book. The story is action-packed and follows the main protagonist through his somewhat violent life. There is a lot of action in this fast-paced story, plenty of twists along the way, and some very believable characters, even the bad guys. If you like a good thriller with plenty of meat on the bones, this is one story you can easily get stuck into.